It doesn't matter who you are, where you are from, what you do for a living, or any other category you place yourself in. All human beings experience suffering. It's a natural tendency to resist change and react to challenges, resisting fear and heartache. Yet, we know change is inevitable.
It's not easy un-training the mind but the beautiful fact is that we can absolutely train and strengthen the mind to live in the NOW.
I recently discovered Pema Chodron, a Tibetan Buddhist.
I just finished her book, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times.
Not only did this book change my life, it's roughly 176 pages, depending on how you buy it.
Why is it so life changing?
It's simple, the Buddhist concepts she discusses can immediately be applied to your life right now. You just have to want it. You just have to be willing to practice making the shift.
Here are some highlights that stayed with me:
1. Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth: Chodron is a master proponent of being intimate with our fears rather than resisting them. She teaches to look fear right in the eye, guiding us to become more humble and less arrogant. She even says, "So the next time you encounter fear, consider yourself lucky. This is where the courage comes in."
2. When things fall apart: Have you ever wondered if you would ever be happy again? "When you have made good friends with yourself, your situation will be more friendly too." When we feel the groundlessness of a vulnerable situation, we can either be resentful or practice tenderness with ourselves and others. Chodron believes that the way to healing is to allow room for grief, misery, discomfort.
3. This exact moment is the perfect teacher: This book emphasizes how spiritual warriors face feelings like disappointment, irritation, anger, jealousy, fear, and embarrassment as unique opportunities that teach and rather than running from these, they face them head on. We can move beyond hope and fear, continually moving forward past any fears. This book teaches you just how to do that.
4. Relax as it is: Chodron poses the question, just how willing are you to lighten up and loosen your grip? Are you willing to open your mind and just relax? This is where simple breathing exercises come in that you've heard of, but it's a bit more than that. Your thoughts will distract you when you try to sit for even just 1 minute and breathe. And that's ok. Show kindness to yourself and just quietly say, "thoughts." Keep breathing. My life has changed from meditation and I don't think people realize the benefits otherwise everyone would be practicing this. It is the answer to ALL your problems.
5. Maitri: What is Maitri? This is a Sanskrit word which translates to loving-kindness or unconditional friendliness. Thoughts are what make us miserable. But Chodron does not teach to run from these miserable thoughts but rather allow space for them and sit with them while showing yourself gentle loving-kindness during the process.
6. It's never too late to become a better person: Have you done horrible things to people and to yourself? It's really never too late to practice loving-kindness. Chodron reminds us it's not about making pain go away, it's about giving up control overall and at times, letting our ideas fall apart.
This is just an overview of some of the concepts in this book but does not suffice in experiencing it for yourself. You too can become a spiritual warrior and that doesn't mean your fearless. It means sitting with fear and allowing things to just fall apart.
Feeling down, read this...
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Thanks for reading,
I am Sterp. I write dark fiction and have a very unhealthy obsession with disturbing narratives. I am the author of The Cult Called Freedom House: Sophia Rey Book One. My short story The Lost Tea Cup is in Issue 26 of The Literary Hatchet. I am also a painter.
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